Remarks at UNODC High Level Meeting of Partners for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries

Daniel Foote
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Vienna, Austria
December 14, 2015

My country is in the midst of a heroin epidemic, and I know the United States is not the only nation that has, is, or will be facing this crisis.

Heroin addiction is a universal problem, one that’s not going away, and one that does not respect borders. While Afghanistan itself now has one of the highest rates of opiate use in the world, it is estimated that, excluding prescription drugs, there are now about 1.5 million regular users of opiates in the United States, nearly double that number in Europe, and over 10 million more throughout Asia today. This common challenge is not limited to one place: it is a threat to the region, to Europe, and to the world.

Moreover, heroin and opiates are not merely a threat to public health. Like addiction itself, transnational criminal organizations and terrorists do not respect borders, and they are often funded by drug-related revenues. Not only do they wreak havoc in our countries, they also undermine the rule of law, the creation of prosperous economies, and the safety that the people of Afghanistan, the region, and the world deserve. The realization of these aspirations is inseparable from our success in the fight against drugs and those who traffic in them.

The United States was pleased to join Chief Executive Abdullah’s discussion of the Afghan National Drug Action Plan earlier this year, and we welcome President Ghani’s adoption of the plan on October 14. It is an indispensable roadmap that outlines a balanced, comprehensive, coordinated approach to this problem in a practical, sustainable way over the next four years. It addresses drug cultivation, production, trafficking, and use; and defines both the Afghanistan’s responsibilities, as well as the role regional neighbors and the international community must play in our support of Afghanistan.

I join many here who have experienced firsthand the challenges Afghanistan faces, and I know the implementation of this plan will not be easy. However, it does contain the practical elements necessary for success. These include steps to counter the cultivation, production, trafficking, and use of opiates; a timeframe, with milestones and metrics, to measure progress; and concrete, specific ways by which those of us outside of Afghanistan can support the Unity Government and their plan of action.

It is critical that the Government of Afghanistan demonstrate real commitment and illustrate its progress toward meeting National Drug Action Plan objectives. It is also exceptionally important now for the international community to clearly demonstrate to the Government of Afghanistan our support for their plan and their efforts to implement it. There are many ways we can do this. For those in the region: it is imperative that there be increased information and intelligence sharing. There must also be greater coordination of operations to attack both traffickers and the facilitators that keep them in business. For those in the broader international community: I ask you to join the United States in providing support in line with the requests made in the National Drug Action Plan. Only by doing so can we help to create the conditions necessary for Afghanistan to succeed in this shared fight against the drug trade. 

The United States will continue our broad support for counternarcotics in Afghanistan within the framework of the National Drug Action Plan, and we will continue to assist regional counternarcotics efforts and initiatives. This will happen both bilaterally with Afghanistan and with like-minded countries in the region, and through multilateral initiatives. We will continue our work to strengthen Afghan counternarcotics capacities, combat illicit financial flows associated with the narcotics trade, promote the development of Afghanistan’s legitimate economy, and via other regional and global counternarcotics efforts.

UNODC is an important catalyst that brings together partners to take action against the Afghan drug trade: not just with words, but through the actions that we commit to taking after leaving this room. Let me express our sincere appreciation to Executive Director (Yury) Fedotov [Fed’dit’tov]for his leadership over the more than five years he has served as the leader of UNODC, to both Minister (Salamat) Azimi and Special Representative (Nicholas) Haysom for chairing this meeting, and to all of you for your commitment to this cause.

We are all here today because we believe we must collectively do better in addressing the scourge of narcotics emanating from Afghanistan. I thank you for joining us as we open a new chapter in the international fight against addiction and narco-trafficking in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. I urge you to join the United States in actively supporting the National Drug Action Plan, whether bilaterally with Afghanistan or by seeking linkages with the frameworks of UNODC’s Country Plan for Afghanistan, the Paris Pact Initiative, and other multilateral efforts. Doing so will benefit not just Afghanistan, but will protect the health, safety, and security of the citizens of all our countries. Thank you.